Why Do We Think Our Birds are So Dumb?

I don’t think anyone will dispute the fact that birds are unpredictable.

 

I listen to the clipped wings camp and one of the things I hear repeatedly is “I keep my birds wings clipped so it doesn’t fly into a wall” Something caged bird keepers who clip their bird’s wings predict with absolute certainty.

 

 

Let me get this straight. You have an animal that can see things outside the range of human vision (light in the ultraviolet spectrum) but you don’t believe your bird can see an 8 or 10 foot tall plaster monolith with artwork hanging on it and have the flight agility to avoid said wall?

 

 

“My bird will hate that carrier, it’s too big and he’ll be scared”

 

How do you know this? Again a prediction with absolute certainty. You certainly won’t let your child select its car seat, but you’ll let your bird select its carrier (as the author scratches his head).

 

One more:

 

“My bird will never figure out that complicated interactive toy”.

 

Could it be because your bird spends eight hours a day in a cage looking at a wall with nothing to challenge its mind like an old person withering away in a nursing home?

 

So let me turn the tables – Can you tell me with accuracy the next time your bird will bite you? A lot of people here will say well “I watch for their eyes to pin”. Sunshine our Ringneck would get pinned eyes and squeal with delight as he received every serving of scrambled eggs. I never bought into that pinned eye “predicts” a bite theory. Pinned eyes predict excitement in both good and bad ways.

 

You tell me why your bird is acting “weird”. Could it be because of the new piece of furniture in the family room next to the birdcage?

 

I’m not trying to diminish anyone’s due diligence in caged bird keeping husbandry, but how many of us have acquired our bird keeping skills from bird forums and Facebook groups on the Internet? Do you think you are improving your birds chances to succeed over a long-term relationship or are you setting up the both of you for failure because all the books written about birds are so outdated which means you’re relying on nothing but anecdotal information?

 

I don’t say that lightly. Let’s face the facts, we all know birds can have remarkably long lives. I know a veterinarian who did an exam on a parakeet that was 26 years old – documented with the original Woolworth’s sales receipt from her 81-year-old human companion.

 

Bigger birds can live 30 – 40 – 50 years. Big Macaws and Cockatoos have been known to live into their 80s. We all know that (except for that parakeet story which was a remarkable discovery)

 

Sorry about not warning you, but I’m giving you some homework. Let’s all go back to our bird forums and Facebook groups and ask the question “How many here have birds that have been passed down for generations? How many people have grown up with birds that belonged to their parents or grandparents?

 

You will get a handful of people that have taken over bird stewardship stewardship, but for the most part caged birds that are not being killed by their human companions are usually being rehomed repeatedly because the reality of caged bird keeping never comes close to the expectations of cage bird keeping.

 

The second part of the homework assignment (I know many of you have already done this) is to reevaluate your relationship with the animal. Are the problems that you’re having with your bird (screaming, biting, aggression, fussy eating) the lack of understanding of how complex a pet you’re really trying to maintain (“Oh, he always bites me when strangers come over and I don’t know how to fix that” – a topic for a future blog post).

 

Are you taking into account if your bird is clipped that he still needs to exercise to compensate for the lack of calorie burning his body biologically anticipates? Are you helping build a strong healthy mind for such an inquisitive animal?

 

We have said repeatedly over the years that a parrot is basically a three-year-old autistic child in a feather suit who speaks another language. Imagine locking a child in a cage eight hours a day with three toys, what do you think the behavioral outcome would be after months or years?

 

So let’s give credit to these feathered creatures that can talk, think, solve problems, see light that is invisible to us and defy gravity, before we simply write off the creature with “my bird can or cannot do that.” Let’s think it through. We want the relationship with your birds to succeed as much as you do.

 

 

written by mitch rezman

approved by catherine tobsing

Mitch Rezman

He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they visited monthly birdie brunches in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground. Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care. He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis. He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.

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